In one way, and only one way, the scrimmage the BYU football team held on Friday, Aug. 15 resembled the one Utah State held earlier in the week: Both were held at night.
Other than that, in no way did the Cougars' scrimmage resemble anything the Aggies did when Utah State scored gobs of points and put up 500 yards of total offense. The Cougars offense, for the most part, was non-existent. BYU's defense, on the other hand, well, Cougars fans should be excited about those guys.
BYU's offense came out sluggish in front of more than 12,000 fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium. It's a fan base that is obviously excited about the prospects of their Cougars this season. The reason is easy. From top to bottom, BYU is loaded on offense.
From dynamic quarterback Taysom Hill to a talented workhorse running back in Jamaal Williams and on and on to UTEP transfer and NFL prospect wide receiver Jordan Leslie--and Stanford transfer Keanu Nelson and JUCO transfer Devon Blackmon--the Cougars are a threat to win 10 or more games and possibly contend for the first College Football Playoff, if the offense is as good as some believe.
Yet it was Hill, who was also named Friday as a preseason Manning Award nominee--and is on Heisman watch--who struggled to find any rhythm whatsoever. The junior from Pocatello completed just 9-of-18 passes for a measly 89 yards, throwing one touchdown later in the scrimmage to go with one interception he haphazardly chucked towards the wrong colored shirt.
At least Hill was man enough to realize that his performance and that of his offense, in his own words, was less than stellar. “We were too sloppy offensively. I was disappointed in the way that we played as a whole,” he said post-game. “There are some things we need to fix. I wasn't as sharp as I needed to be."
BYU's defense throttled BYU's offense at every turn Friday, forcing them to punt on the first drive. The defense also stifled the running game to the point where Williams, the Cougars' main threat at running back who ran for 1,000-plus yards last year, was held to just 42 yards on seven carries. None of the Cougar running backs scored a touchdown on Friday evening. But Adam Hine, the junior speedster, he had 59 yards rushing on just four carries.
BYU's receivers never got going, either. The lone passing touchdown of the night came when Hill found wide receiver Kurt Henderson on a 21-yard toss into the end zone on a designed roll-out. Henderson isn't expected to contend for a starting spot but even he had 33 yards on three catches as the BYU offensive plan was to spread the ball out to as many receivers and backs as possible.
Mission accomplished in that sense. Yet Leslie and Nelson, part of that transfer trio, had one catch apiece and were a disappointment on Friday. On the flip side, Blackmon was the story of BYU's deep receiver corps, catching five balls for 47 yards.
The surprise offensive player on the night was senior QB Christian Stewart, who continues to turn heads with his stellar, efficient play. On Friday night the Timpanogos High product was solid, completing 11-of-16 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown. He also threw one interception, like Hill, but unlike Hill he scampered for a 2-yard TD.
The frightening part about this scrimmage was that out of 12 BYU drives on offense, only two resulted in touchdowns. The Cougars punted time and again, giving a defense that had been burned in the first scrimmage new life. All told, the BYU offense scored just 17 points.
So give the second scrimmage to BYU's defense as the Cougars on the whole begin to hone in on what they want to do for the upcoming season. While BYU's scrimmage didn't have as much on the line as Utah's tomorrow--where a major quarterback controversy has developed--there were positions up for grabs on Friday.
And, while you didn't see tons of points at LaVell Edwards Stadium in front of 12,000 strong, you did see enough to get an idea of what's to come, according to BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
"There were glimpses of the explosiveness of our offense. Ultimately, the defense made enough stops to keep (a lot of) points off the board."